Sunday, August 23rd 2015
CANarchy in the UK! Q & A with Andy Hughes of WeCan Solutions
It goes without saying, the craft can revolution is in full swing here in the US. Craft breweries in all 50 states are canning their beer and mobile canners are helping more and more small brewers get their products into a reliable retail package. With the success many American brewers are seeing with cans, its not surprising to learn that the craft can revolution is also alive and well across the Atlantic. In the land that spawned the origins of so many beer styles, cans are quickly becoming a hit with British craft brewers.
To learn a little more about the canning scene in the UK, we caught up with Andy Hughes. Andy and his business partner, Martin Forder, head a team that delivers WeCan Solutions, the UK's first mobile canning operation. Cheers Andy!
(CC) Tell us a little bit about WeCan Solutions...
(AH) Two individuals started the project Martin Forder and myself Andy Hughes. Martin’s background is purely beers and he’s worked at some of the largest beer producers in the UK including Thwaites and Bulmers - he won all kind of awards as regards what he’s don for the industry so he’s pretty well known. He was key in delivering 'Crafty Dan’ by Thwaites beers into the UK. My background is in the public sector oddly enough but passionate to the extreme about craft beers. We both left well paid jobs to develop our business and deliver this revolutionary form of contract canning into the UK.
(CC) How did you first hear about the idea of mobile canning?
(AH) To be honest we hadn’t heard of anyone doing this when we had the idea over 2 years ago. Through our experience in the industry we saw how the growth in the independent breweries could be supported by low volume canning facility. Mobile seemed to make so much more sense with a range of environmental benefits (its much easier to move the equipment to the beer !!) but it also meant the passionate brewers could retain control over their product to the point it went to can. There’s so much more savings on other costs to such as cleaning, administration and transportation.
(CC) When did you decide to pursue your own mobile canning business?
(AH) The projected started over two years ago and we have been in production since the end of 2014. We work with a team of advisors who assist us with various technical aspects of our business - they’re a fantastic assets and a pool of knowledge that is 2nd to none. We visited a whole range of breweries along with wholesalers, retailers and beer drinkers. It was very evident that there was a need to be offering the sale of ‘craft’ beer in cans - the feed back was overwhelmingly positive.
(CC) What is the current attitude towards canned craft beer in the UK? Does a stigma still exist?
(AH) Crazy !! Breweries are selling the cans as fast as we can make them. The feedback from the head brewers is so positive. Repeat orders have exceeded expectations. As regards to stigma - surprisingly less than we thought. We see the ‘craft’ can beer drinker as someone who is very willing to try something new without prejudging. The question that we thought we’d face was whether the beer would be tainted by the can - seems like most people know that this is simply not an issue and is therefore rarely asked.
(CC) What sort of changes with regards to public acceptance have you seen in recent years?
(AH) Certainly with the craft beer market its a younger, more accepting crowd that like to explore new and exciting beers. Gone are the days of boring session beers where beer was consumed for the alcoholic effect. We see a move to people enjoying beer because it tastes fantastic ! And theres so many to try !!
(CC) What sorts of breweries are you working with?
(AH) Large and small. We canned 500 cans for a local cider maker last weekend as a favour - thats got to be one of the smallest contract canning runs ever !! On the other end of the scale we work with larger breweries such as Brains, Purity and Eden Mill in St Andrews, Scotland. The majority are breweries with a capacity of between 10 and 50 barrels. We work with over 40 breweries in the UK including Hastings Brewery, 40ft Brewery, Orbit Brewery, Waen Brewery, Stewart Brewery, Arkells, Wild Beer ….. I could go on !
(CC) What are some differences between the American and British craft beer markets?
(AH) We’re certainly behind - but catching up fast. I’m not certain there are many differences to be honest. We see a young vibrant market with lots of creative things going on with the beers and the way they are presented in the cans.
(CC) Do you foresee more British craft breweries looking to can their beers?
(AH) With 100 % certainty. Interest is huge. At a recent conference by the society for independent brewers (SIBA) the buzz work was cans ! It makes so much sense for brewers to contract can their product. But unlike more traditional contract canning brewers retain control over their product.
Labelling solutions are really incredible - designers are having a field day at the moment and we’re seeing some incredible designs. Mobile canning takes away so much hassle from breweries. Micro-canning is much more than simply buying a canning line. We take ownership of all of the issues meaning that brewers simply have to book a date. No breakdowns, poor seam quality, storage issues, administration / duty issues, training, spare parts - the list is endless, and we take all of this hassle allowing breweries to focus on what they do well.
(CC) What are currently some of the more popular canned craft beers in the UK?
(AH) We have the larger producers of ‘craft beers’ such as Beavertown and Forepure. WeCan are responsible for addicting 75% of the new craft beers in the British market so customers can taste passionately made, low volume high quality beers in cans from almost any brewery. Theres a few that people should look out for as they are awesome. Lawless from Purity is one lager that's epic !! Then theres 53 degrees North Brewery - one of the 1st canned conditioned in the UK and it tastes stunning, Theres a steam lager produced by Redwell that will knock your socks off ! Oh, yeah there's another great beer by Andwel Brewery that they put in a can - thats pretty good too!
…. we get a lot of people asking us where they can buy the beer (as it goes so quickly) so we have launched the CraftCanDirectory.com which is an online Beer Club and store where people can order and get their beer delivered to their doors. We’ll have all of the craft cans available in the UK on there in the next few day. -
(CC) We need that here in the US!
(CC) What are some of the challenges you face as a mobile canning outfit in the UK?
(AH) Mobile canning is far from easy. If anyone thinks its about getting a line and putting it into the van well they have a lot to learn !! Quality is absolutely the key. As each new brewery is different from the last, to ensure we maintain quality we have to adjust our processes. That has been the key to our success as we have learned to adapt to a load of different scenarios. We get asked all the time to reduce our volumes. We currently ask that 10 barrels is available but we have just announced that we can now reduce our volumes to just 1000 litres. We’re expanding on the other side of the scale but I can’t quite tell you about that. We also help breweries increase their capacity by offering to condition their beer for them. This is very popular at the moment.
(CC) What do you enjoy most about your job?
(AH) Easy that one - meeting the brewers. I love to share their passion for what they do. We help in just a little way in making their product stand out from the rest.
Posted by Russ
Labels: Mobile Canning
Friday, October 11th 2013
Michigan Mobile Canning Helping Brewers in Michigan and Indiana
The state of Michigan, okay, fine I'll say it, MichiCAN, currently boasts over a dozen craft breweries that can their beer. Contributing to this steadily growing number is Michigan Mobile Canning, a mobile canning outfit founded by Andrew McLean and Scott Richards, two craft beer lovers with a desire to help brewers get their beers on shelves.
Back in June the two flew out to Colorado for a week of training with Ron Popma of MobileCanningSystems, LLC. The duo then made the 19 hour drive back to Michigan in their new outfitted 18-foot box truck. Two short days later they wheeled their Wild Goose MC-250 into the brewhouse at Right Brain Brewery in Traverse City and canned their first beer, Right Brain's Will Power Pale Ale.
Andrew and Scott, both native Michiganders, were the third affiliate of MobileCanningSystems to actively can craft beers, and within a few weeks potential customers from across the state and Indiana were calling. In less than four months since that first run they've completed over a dozen canning sessions at Right Brain as well as Wolverine State Brewing Company in Ann Arbor and Saugatuck Brewing in Douglas.
Recently Michigan Mobile Canning headed south to Indiana (during which the nickname of their line changes from “MichiCan” to “IndiCana”). Setting up shop at Flat 12 Bierwerks in Indianapolis, Andrew and Scott put the brewery's Half Cycle IPA in cans - which you can now find at Lucas Oil Stadium! Today Andrew and Scott can be found canning the one and only Leprechaun Lager at Four Horsemen Brewing Company in South Bend.
With a steady stream of interest coming from breweries in both Michigan and Indiana, look for more craft cans from both states in the coming months.
Here’s a rundown of the beers already canned by the Michigan Mobile Canning as well as those that we CAN confirm are coming soon. Cheers!
Right Brain Brewery | Traverse City, MI
Four Horsemen Brewing Company | South Bend, IN
Leprechaun Lager (October 2013)
Posted by Trent
Labels: Mobile Canning
Monday, July 8th 2013
New England Breweries Get Their First Mobile Canning Service
Norwalk, Conn. ― High-performance, mobile canning wasn’t an option for breweries in the Northeast―until now. Iron Heart Canning Company, New England’s only mobile production canning service, has announced its official launch and will partner with Westfield River Brewing Company of Westfield, Mass., for its first canning run in early August.
“The response we’ve received from breweries has been really exciting” said Tyler Wille, Iron Heart’s founder and co-owner. “We’re eliminating many of the hurdles that keep new and established breweries out of cans, and we’re making it easier than ever for them to reach new consumers.”
When breweries can with Iron Heart, they bypass the expense and headache of buying and running their own line. On top of the upfront financial investment, an in-house system means spending time and money on maintenance, training staff, and devoting precious floor space to bulky equipment. As an on-demand, pay-as-you-go service, Iron Heart eliminates these hassles. It brings the canning line, the trained labor, and the expertise, in addition to helping breweries source small-batches of packaging supplies and warehousing pallets of cans for clients who are tight on space.
As an affiliate of MobileCanningSystems™ (MCS), Iron Heart’s equipment is at the cusp of canning innovation. Its mobile system was engineered by Wild Goose Canning Technologies to fit neatly inside of a box truck and has the ability to fill 40 cans per minute.
“We’re partnering with MCS to leverage their expertise and experience, so that we can provide our customers in New England with the highest quality service from day one,” Wille said. “The training and support they provide give us an edge. We have rigid cleaning, sanitation, quality control, and operational procedures. The brewery’s beer is our top priority. Their product, after all, is our product.”
Posted by Russ
Wednesday, May 29th 2013
Q & A with TX Canning
(CC) What's the story behind TX Canning?
(TX) Cans are the future in craft beer, period. And as we like to say at TX Canning, F-YEAH WE CAN! We came to life in the summer of 2012 after hearing about this up and coming small business venture of mobile canning done by a group of grad students in Northern California, The Can Van (read our Q & A with The Can Van). John and I have been close friends since our Colorado Buffalo college days in Boulder and we’ve both been craft beer fans since. We thought, why not mobile canning in Texas! I spoke with our canning line manufacture, got that rolling, soon after that, I got on the ball with Ball Corporation, who manufactures aluminum cans. Canning line built in Boulder, Colorado while our cans are built in Ft. Worth, Texas – a great relationship was born.
(CC) Who all is involved?
(TX) John Reardon, Founder and Chief Evangelist of Deep Ellum Brewing Company and myself, Zack Fickey, Event Ninja at Deep Ellum Brewing Co. We have a lead canner, Matt Smith, and 5 part-time packaging operators.
(CC) What sort of equipment are you using and how are you transporting it?
(TX) We have a quad fill two head tower, automated canning line from Wild Goose Canning Technologies direct from Boulder, Colorado. Our line cans roughly 80 cases an hour. John and I wanted something different on the “mobile” side of our business. TX Canning needed an American-built truck and large enough to hold a staff of four for our longer routes in Texas. We picked up a quad cab GMC C6500 with a Caterpillar V8 diesel engine (see above). It has a 20 foot box to hold our line and up to 6 pallets of empty cans. We have plans to put bull steers on the front as well as a train horn. Why the hell not!
(CC) Which breweries are you currently working with?
(TX) From the gate, we have been extremely busy with Deep Ellum Brewing Co. We helped launch Dallas’ first craft beer into market with cans, DEBC cans are now selling in Austin and Houston. We will be canning beer for Armadillo Ale Works out of Denton, TX within one month. New accounts in Texas will be pursued heavily this summer. Thoughts of purchasing another canning line is possible.
(CC) What is the best part about working with the craft beer industry?
(TX) The people involved are the best part. Craft beer begins with home brewers and they’re our kind of people. People with a passion to making damn good beer their style, their brand. Helping small business get their product to market is remarkable for us.
(CC) Where do you see the canned segment of the craft beer industry going?
(TX) It’s moving up rapidly. Many frowned upon Oskar Blues Brewery some years back, but look at them now. I met and spoke with Chris Katechis, Sales Leader in Austin, and brother of owner Dale Katechis of Oskar Bluesat the Ft. Worth Untapped Festival earlier this spring. We shared some great stories drinking our brews out of a can. Both of us raved about how well canned craft beer is taking flight in the market. We agreed that distribution prefers cans as they are lighter for transport. Consumers like cans as they can take them anywhere, land or sea, whereas bottles are limited. Cans are in a way better for the environment as aluminum is easily recyclable. Dallas is a pool and lake market, we prefer our craft beer in cans, hands down!
(CC) What are some of your favorite canned craft beers from Texas?
(TX) Well, their ain’t much. But Southern Star’s Buried Hatchet Stout and Austin Beer Works Fire Eagle and the new Ft. Worth brewing company Martin House Ale works will be putting out some craft beer in cans are my top on the list. Deep Ellum Brewing Co has 5 canned brews in market, Deep Ellum IPA, Dallas Blonde, Rye Pilsner, Double Brown Stout (all in 12 oz. cans) and their summer seasonal Farmhouse Wit (16 oz. cans) are all my favorites.
(CC) What is something people might not know about TX Canning?
(TX) We understand the initial burden brewers go through when pursuing packaging their brew. Cost of a canning line, employees, limited space and of course the cost of pre-printed cans. We have a business model set up with our can manufacturer, Ball Corporation, right in our back yard in Ft. Worth, Texas. They will store our cans we purchase for our accounts. In other words, we finance your cans and keep them in a secure and safe place away from your brewery. “Some men finance her cans, well, we will finance yours!” With the exception of a small down payment, we ask for no large sum of money prior to the brewery’s beer filled and ready for distribution. This is appealing for our customers, as we know the importance of starting a brewery. We live and love the craft beer scene and we thrive on branding. These two together makes a great business for the greater good of craft beer.
Posted by Russ
Friday, June 21st 2012
Q & A with Justin Brandt
(Owner of Northwest Canning)
Northwest Canning is one of four mobile canning companies, and one of two in the Pacific Northwest, that have launched within the past two years. Located in the brewery-rich lands of the PNW, they're bringing their can labeler and their Wild Goose Canning Line to breweries wishing to put their beers in cans. Beginning operations earlier this year, they've already got their hands full doing canning for quite a few breweries in their area. We took a few minutes and launched a barrage of questions at owner, Justin Brandt, who was kind enough to answer them and share a little bit about his company and their mission. Cheers Justin!
(CC) Tell us a little about yourself...
(JB) I grew up in the small town of Snohomish, Washington. For college, my business partner Arne and I went to Linfield College and we graduated in 2007 and 2008 respectively. After college, we both went on to be financial advisors for military families in the Tacoma, Washington area. We both love beer and, in early 2012, I quit my job to start Northwest Canning!
(CC) When did the idea for Northwest Canning first came to mind?
(JB) One of my favorite summer activities is to take leisurely floats down some of the local rivers with good friends and good suds. I make a big effort to drink local beer and, last year while scanning the grocery isle for something tasty, I noticed there were very few local craft brews in cans. After doing a lot of research and planning, we set out to change that.
(CC) What sort of canning set-up do you have?
(JB) Right now, we use the MC-50 mobile canning system from Wild Goose Engineering. It’s one of the best manual machines on the market and is a great starter system! With it we are able to average about 10 16 oz. cans a minute. Things have been going well and next week we are putting a down payment on two new machines that will increase our production to 40 cans a minutes! This will help reduce our costs so we can keep prices low for the breweries we work with.
(CC) What is your main "goal" so to speak when it comes to the business you provide?
(JB) Our goal is to help small breweries, plain and simple. For a small brewery, one of the best ways we can help is by being available when they need us. One of the main gripes I hear from brewers is about outside service providers not being reliable, so we’ve made the commitment to go the extra mile for our clients.
"Our goal is to help small breweries, plain and simple."
(CC) What were some of the challenges you faced when getting things started?
(JB) The logistical issues have been some of the most challenging. The key to a mobile system is being able to fit all of your equipment into an easily transportable unit, which this is not an easy task. It took a tremendous amount of planning to bring Northwest Canning from concept to reality in 6 months.
(CC) Where are you based? Are you mostly looking to work with breweries in Oregon and Washington?
(JB) We are based in Portland and our main service area is between Eugene and Seattle. In the next few months we plan to lease a separate warehouse in Seattle so we can expand our services and cover both states as well as Idaho.
(CC) Which breweries have you worked with so far? Which beers have you canned?
(JB) We’ve canned for two breweries so far, Wingman Brewers in Tacoma and Emerald City Beer Co. in Seattle. Wingman is great! They are the smallest nano-breweries around to start canning and they are putting out their “P-51 Porter” and “Ace IPA” in 16 oz. cans. Emerald City is one of the few micro-breweries to focus on lagers and they have done an amazing job! Their “Dottie Seattle Lager” is crisp and perfect for summer. Not to mention the 16 oz. can is one of the best looking around! We will be starting up with seven others in the coming months. Stay tuned!
(CC) We read recently that you might be looking to also can wine and even water in the future? What can you tell us about that?
(JB) Absolutely. We haven’t formalized anything yet but there has been some interest from wineries to do cans. The Pacific Northwest is the perfect area for the “wine in a can” trend to take off. As far as water goes, Ball has developed a great new twist-top can that would be a perfect fit for this. For us, nothing is off the table. If people want it in a can, we are going to work our hardest to get it there.
(CC) What do you see in the near future when it comes to canned craft beer?
(JB) Canned craft beer has a very bright future. When you see large breweries like Sierra Nevada investing millions to ramp up their can production, you know it’s going to be a lasting trend.
(CC) When you're not helping others can their beer where can you be found enjoying a beer? What are some of your favorite local beers?
(JB)You can usually find me and a few friends at the Green Dragon, in Southeast Portland, on Thursday. They put on a “Meet the Brewers Night” and bring in brewers from all around the nation. It’s a really fun place to meet fellow beer lover and enjoy 50+ taps. There’s no way I could pick a favorite local beer but a few notable choices are Burnside Brewing’s “Sweet Heat” and Amnesia Brewing’s “Desolation IPA”.
(CC) How can people get in touch or stay connected with Northwest Canning?
*all images courtesy of Northwest Canning
Posted by Russ